Rick’s been playing games since before he could walk. I went from an NES to a PS3 with nothing in between. We love to game together, but finding games we can both enjoy can be tough. Indie Game Date is our quest to find great indie games that both of us will love.
I know I’ve been teasing you all with a new feature, and while this isn’t actually the feature I’ve been talking about, it is a new feature and I’m really excited about it.
In an effort to play more indie games and spend more time together, Rick suggested a feature where each week we play and review a $1 (80 credit) indie game on the Xbox Live Arcade. Personally, I loved the idea, so Indie Game Date was born. We’re using Indie Gamer Chick‘s current Xbox top 10 as a guide for the first few dates, but I’m sure we’ll blow through those 10 quickly enough, so if readers could give us suggestions of games we could play in the comments, we’d love that too. We’d prefer if the games stayed close to the $1 price point since we’re on a budget, but the don’t even necessarily have to be on Xbox Live Arcade. Any indie game with good bang for it’s buck will do.
For our first installment we decided to go with a co-op game, but even before we’d decided on that criteria, Dead Pixels was high on our list.
Currently listed at #2 on the Indie Gamer Chick list, Dead Pixels looks like a pretty straight forward 8-bit style side scrolling shooter, but surprisingly good game design and a serious commitment to the zombie genre raise it high above the indie zombie game pack.
The premise is pretty straight-forward. You (and your friend if you’re playing co-op) are stranded in a zombie infested city and you need to get from point A to point B while blasting zombies and avoiding getting bit. The levels are split up into city streets, with each level taking anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes depending on how handy you are with a shotgun. The difficulty comes in when you realize just how rare ammo is, with traders becoming increasingly rare the further you progress. There is a melee attack, but the risks with that are pretty obvious in a zombie apocalypse scenario.
As in most games of this type, defeated enemies drop coins, which can be exchanged for goods and upgrades when you find a trader. You can also loot open stores and abandoned houses for goods to trade or sell for coins. But be careful, carrying too much loot will slow you down, as Rick learned while trying to carry three shotguns at once.
It took us a while to catch on, but start investing in upgrades as soon as you can. Leveling up your melee attack is great for saving ammo when you’re one on one, while max health upgrades are good for kamikaze style players like myself. I also like the fact that when you die you become a zombie and it’s up to your friend to kill you. But don’t worry, you can always re-spawn at the next trader, as long as your friend manages to make it there.
The other aspect of the game that really impressed me was the fact that it is in fact possible to complete a level without shooting a single zombie. You just need to run really fast and learn to herd the zombies together to avoid them, useful when your buddy has been zombiefied and you’re out of ammo. There’s also a good variety in the kinds of zombies you encounter: some are more difficult to kill, some spit poison ruling out melee attacks and some only arrive in giant swarms when you least expect them.
The commitment to a grindhouse feel, reinforced by an opening and an intermission segment, not to mention digital dust marks in the early parts of the game, do a lot to endear the player to the game. There are numerous shout outs to classic zombie movies like Dawn of the Dead and Return of the Living Dead, and one of the later guns you find is called a “Boomstick.”
While the game itself is rather simple, it is a blast to play with friends, and attempting speed runs will definitely give it repeated replay value. You can easily blow through the entire game in a couple of hours, or spread it out over a weekend like Rick and I did. Apparently this is only the first installment in the Dead Pixels franchise, with a 16-bit style Part II already in the works. All in all, a high recommendation.
What should we play next week?